Golden LEAF Foundation Awards $24 Million to Help Bring High-Speed Broadband to Rural North Carolina

The Golden LEAF Foundation, which works to assist economically distressed and tobacco-dependent communities in North Carolina with economic development projects, has announced a $24 million grant to MCNC, a nonprofit that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to continuously improve learning and collaboration throughout North Carolina's K20 education community, to expand broadband access in sixty-nine counties.

The grant will provide matching funds to help MCNC secure $78 million in federal funds from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The funds would enable MCNC to embark on a $111 million project to install 1,448 miles of new broadband fiber in largely underserved areas in northern and south-central North Carolina.

Part of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, the grant will support efforts to increase the broadband capacity of public school systems, community colleges, libraries, universities, and other public institutions while enabling them to stabilize costs through direct connections to the North Carolina Research and Education Network. Agreements between MCNC and private providers are also expected to benefit consumers and small businesses by allowing for more broadband options.

"These areas of the state are struggling to transition their economies," said Golden LEAF president Dan Gerlach. "The foundation board of directors views this initiative as an opportunity to provide essential infrastructure, take advantage of federal matching dollars, and invest directly in efforts to grow stronger communities. Access to fiber in these areas will help level the playing field by providing global connectivity for business and educational opportunities."